Ministry blames glitch for blocking life-saving treatments

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The Health Ministry issued a weak response to doctors and patient claims that lives are endangered from delays in sending innovative treatments, chemotherapy, and special drugs from the capital to the other districts.

On Monday, the ministry attributed delays to a technical ‘glitch’, arguing that it is working on fixing problems causing delays in transferring medical services and medicines to patients.

The ministry said it decided to provide private hospitals with new innovative medicines as soon as they are approved for use for beneficiaries of the General Health System as of 1 July.

“However, the software differentiation process has contributed to delays being observed, and superhuman efforts are being made to resolve the software issue and the process differentiation,” said the Health Ministry on Monday.

The ministry said that the service would be online on 2 October.

The response was triggered by criticism that procedures for transferring innovative treatments, chemotherapy and specialised drugs from Nicosia are “time-consuming and dangerous”.

In comments to Phileleftheros daily on Monday, the head of the German Oncology Centre, Dr Nicos Zamboglou, said: “Some people don’t want to understand that we are dealing with human lives and constantly postpone adopting new procedures”.

“Our patients, including cancer patients, wait for long periods until they get the treatment they need.”

The doctor said that it takes months of persistent effort and communication with the authorities for patients to finally get their medication or treatment.

“We’ve had patients in Limassol, waiting a whole month for their medication to travel from Nicosia through the highway.”

The head of the German Oncology Centre blamed authorities for “selective sensitivity”.

“We have noticed that medications are miraculously on time when it comes to famous people or acquaintances and relatives of people in high places.

“If you know someone, your medication is delivered to you on time; if you are an ordinary joe, then you die,” said Zamboglou.

The Cyprus Patients Association’s Dimitris Lambrianides said: “The problem concerns the innovative, specialised treatments that have not yet been included in the General health Scheme (GHS) and are managed by the Ministry of Health”.

He explained that for patients to receive these treatments, they must address the Nominal Requests Committee of the Ministry of Health under the current procedures.

When approval is given, the ministry’s Department of Purchases and Supplies undertakes the task of securing them.

When the medicines are secured, which can take even months for some treatments, the ministry sends them to the state pharmacies of the state hospitals, with private hospitals obliged to pick them up from there.

The new procedure speeds up the approval of new medications and treatments, making them immediately available at all private hospitals simultaneously.